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Updated: Jun 25, 2020

Sleep is a naturally recurring, reversible state of mind and body characterized by altered consciousness, inhibited sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles, reduced interactions with surroundings and decreased ability to react to stimuli.


Sleep Facts:

1. Most animals engage in sleep-like behavior.

2. Sleep has critical rest and restorative effects for brain function, health and healing.

3. Normal sleep latency (time it takes to fall asleep) is 5-20 minutes.                                                                                                       

4. It is normal to wake up 3-4 times a night and take 10-15 minutes to fall back to sleep. If after   15 minutes in bed you cannot sleep, get up and do something relaxing until sleepy.

5. The number one sleep disorder in the US is sleep deprivation. The American Academy of Sleep recommends the following amounts of sleep:

· Newborns -1 year: 14-17 hrs

· Preschool children 1-5 years: 10-14 hrs

· School age children 6-13 years: 9-12 hrs

· Teens 14-17 years: 8-10 hrs

· Adults 18-65 years: 7-9hrs

· Older adults >65 years: 7-8hrs

(Over18 yrs, sleep better, not more: > 9 hrs is not useful, may be harmful to health, and may indicate a problem such as moderate to severe depression)

6. If necessary in the daytime, a power nap of 10-20 minutes energizes without grogginess. Longer naps may interfere with night-time sleep.


The Sleep Cycle:

The sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes and is repeated 5 or 6 times each night. There are several stages in each sleep cycle, and two types of sleep:

1.Non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep includes:

Stage 1: drowsiness/transitional sleep with easy arousal, slow eye movements and muscle jerks sometimes preceded by a sensation of falling

Stage 2: light sleep, eye movements stop, bursts of rapid electrical brain activity (sleep spindles) can be recorded, muscle activity quiets

Stage 3/4: deep slow (delta) wave sleep, restful restorative sleep, difficult to wake a person during it

2. REM sleep:

the brain is active and dreaming, and the eyes move under the eyelids, but most of the skeletal muscles of the body are completely relaxed (REM muscle atonia)



It is not clear at what age dreams begin, but toddlers can report dreams. For most of our lives, everybody dreams every night, but you don't always remember your dreamsYou spend about two and a half hours each night dreaming. Scientists are not sure why we dream or what we dream. They do know that REM sleep and dreaming is important for learning and memory. Dreams may be related to things you experienced during the day, things from your memory, to how you feel, your worries, things you are trying to sort out or things you are excited about. Occasional nightmares (disturbing dreams associated with fear or anxiety) are common and not a cause for concern. These can be triggered by stress, trauma, sleep deprivation, some medications or substances, mental health disorders and sometimes by exposure to scary movies or books.


Importance of Light:

Light helps you know when to sleep and when to be awake. When you open your eyes in the morning, sunlight lets your brain know it is time to wake up. As day turns to night, the pineal gland in your brain makes a chemical called melatonin that makes you sleepy. Because even small amounts of light can wake you up, your room should be dark when you sleep. In the morning, you should have as much bright light in your room as possible to help turn off melatonin and wake you up!


Importance of Sleep:

Sleep helps the body and brain develop, grow and recharge. With enough sleep you can:

· Pay better attention and concentrate

· Remember what you learn

· Solve problems, be creative, think of new ideas and make good choices

· Be in a good mood

· Be energetic and physically active

· Get along with friends and family

· Fight sickness so you stay healthy

· Grow well and heal from injuries

This video from does a great job explaining this!


Things you can do to help get a good night's sleep:

· Make sure your sleep environment is comfortable, cool, dark and quiet.

· Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.

· Have a bedtime routine such as taking a shower or meditating that tells your brain it is time to get ready to sleep.

· Exercise during the day –for most people, no closer to bedtime than 3 hours.

· Avoid big meals, screens, TV or video games, loud music, and bright lights within an hour of bedtime, and caffeinated food and drinks within several hours of bedtime.

Authors: Nadia Fike, MD/PhD and Lynne Oland, PhD


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